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Want your own Raspberry Pi-powered Game Boy, a handheld portable retro games console you can take anywhere?
Many options are available, from adapting an existing case to sticking your Raspberry Pi in a 3D printed Nintendo Game Boy.
Read on to learn everything about building your own Raspberry Pi Game Boy and building your own from a kit.
Which Raspberry Pi Model Should You Use for a Game Boy Case?
Almost all Raspberry Pi models can be used for a Game Boy style project. However, they each have their advantages and disadvantages
- Raspberry Pi A: lower CPU speed and RAM, and fewer USB ports, the Pi A models should do the job, but most cases aren’t suitable.
- Raspberry Pi B/B+: from the original Pi B through to the Raspberry Pi 4, the B board is most suited to emulation. The fastest option, B boards also have more connectivity options.
- Raspberry Pi Zero: compact, but slower, and lacking USB connectivity without an adapter. Various Raspberry Pi Game Boy projects are based around the Pi Zero. Given how affordable the board is, it’s your best option if you’re new to Raspberry Pi.
While other hobbyist PCBs can be used in a Gameboy-style handheld gaming system, the Raspberry Pi is the most suitable.
Additional Hardware for a Raspberry Pi Game Boy
You’ll need more than just a Raspberry Pi for a Game Boy-style project.
- PiGRRL 2 PCB: this device lets you control your Pi and games
- PiTFT Display: a 320×240 pixel 2.8-inch TFT resistive touchscreen
- PowerBoost 1000 charger
- Lithium Polymer battery
- Rubber buttons
- Audio amplifier: the Adafruit PAM8302 is a good option
- Mini speaker
- Optional 3D printed Game Boy(or Game Boy Advance) style case
- An assortment of switches and buttons, depending on the Game Boy case you choose
- Suitable stranded wires
You should also have a soldering iron, wire cutters, and a microSD card with RetroPie (a retro gaming suite) installed.
Is Retro Gaming Legal?
You may be aware of some confusion around retro gaming, specifically with the acquisition of ROMs. These are essentially disk images of cartridges, cassettes, disks, and other game media from classic systems. The thing is, if you don’t own the original version, you can’t legally use the ROM.
So, take the time to use retro games you already own, or buy them on eBay or a flea market.
Three Ways to Build a Raspberry Pi Game Boy
What is the best way to build a Game Boy handheld with a Raspberry Pi? You have three main options, each of varying complexity.
- Adapt an existing Game Boy
- 3D print a Game Boy case
- Buy a Raspberry Pi Game Boy kit
Let’s look at some of the best Raspberry Pi game console builds you can carry in your pocket.
1. Revive an Old Game Boy With Raspberry Pi
If you’ve got an old Game Boy cluttering up a drawer, it makes sense to rely on the original case. While you won’t be able to use the internals, there is enough space inside to hold the Pi. You might even adapt a spare, unused, or 3D printed cartridge case for a Pi Zero to sit in.
You should also find room for the display, and controller PCB. For an authentic feel, keep the original buttons.
The video above demonstrates using an old Game Boy case, while retaining all the original interior hardware. If you’re fond of the original device, this is the route to take.
2. 3D Print Your Raspberry Pi Game Boy
Fancy 3D printing a case? If you’re struggling to fit a Raspberry Pi in your old Game Boy without making customizations try a custom-built case. This project from Adafruit shows you what you need to do and where to slot the various circuits.
The end result is a modern, 3D printed version of the Game Boy, powered by a Raspberry Pi.
You’ll find the STL files for 3D printing on this dedicated Thingiverse page.
3. Find a Raspberry Pi Game Boy Kit
Want to avoid the potentially expensive mistakes of buying the wrong components, or a3D printed case that doesn’t fit?
The solution is a Gameboy kit for your Raspberry Pi. Consisting all the necessary parts you should be up and running within 90 minutes. Your Raspberry Pi Gameboy will then be ready to use.
Raspberry Pi Zero Game Boy: EZ-GBZ DIY Kit
There’s a good chance that all you want is a kit to easily assemble and play classic games. If so, why not try the EZ-GBZ kit, which provides a Game Boy-like PCB, all the controls, speaker, and display. All you need to do is connect your Raspberry Pi Zero (or Raspberry Pi Model A board) to the GPIO.
Moments later, you’ll have a great looking Nintendo Game Boy in your hand, powered by your Pi Zero.
Pre-Assembled Shortcut: Gameboy Zero
Don’t fancy building a project from scratch or from a kit and just want to play? The Gameboy Zero on Etsy is the ideal solution, offering a choice of colored and clear cases.
Various configuration options are available when ordering, from standard Game Boy buttons to purple SNES buttons. Powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero, this is as authentic a Game Boy experience you’ll get without booting up an original.
A Game Boy Kit Without the Raspberry Pi
Finally, if you want a great modular Game Boy-like retro gaming experience but aren’t too bothered about the Raspberry Pi, consider the Gameshell from Clockwork.
A modular device that even includes a HDMI-out port, this is a great little device particularly suited to Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, and MAME games. Other platforms can be set up and the device features the PICO8 game kit for building your own titles. You can even run Kodi on the Gameshell!
Want to know more? Check our review of the Gameshell.
Play Retro Games Anywhere on Your Raspberry Pi Game Boy
Fancy a pocket-sized Raspberry Pi-powered Game Boy-like games console? By now you should have a good idea of the best option. You can adapt an old Gameboy, 3D print a case, or buy a Raspberry Pi Game Boy kit.
Whatever path you take, the result should be a games console you can carry in your pocket and play anywhere. You might limit your choice to Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles. Alternatively, you might embrace the full library of retro games available to you. That’ll certainly keep you busy!
As noted, you’ll need to use a retro gaming suite to get your Game Boy-like Raspberry Pi running. While RetroPie is an option, there is a lot more to retro gaming on the Raspberry Pi.